Anti-Christian forces in our culture are operating with growing boldness in seeking to eradicate Christianity from the public square and from the mouths of public officials.
In a recent interview with the Baptist Press, Education Secretary Rod Paige said, "All things equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community, where a child is taught to have a strong faith … In a religious environment the value system is set. That's not the case in a public school, where there are so many different kids with different kinds of values."
No sooner than the remark made the news, the usual objectors cried foul. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State demanded that Paige apologize and withdraw his comments or resign from his position. Paige's words, said Lynn, showed "an astonishing disrespect for both America's religious diversity and the public schools."
Sandra Feldman, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called on Paige to clarify or recant his comments. "It is insulting for the secretary -- who should be the advocate for the over 50 million children in our public schools -- to say their diversity somehow compromises those schools."
New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler piled on, "We believe that you owe a sincere and unambiguous apology to the many American families whose faiths and educational choices your remarks have denigrated. If you are unprepared to make clear that this sort of religious bigotry has no place in the Department of Education, then we would urge you to resign."
Politely speaking, these criticisms are grossly misleading and unfair. Paige was not speaking in his official capacity, but for himself individually. He was saying that he, personally, would rather have a child in a college -- he wasn't even talking about K-12 -- that emphasizes Christian values. He did not recommend that public schools endorse or teach Christian values (though if he had, it certainly wouldn't have offended the American colonists who originally established common schools in this country for the very purpose of Christian religious instruction). And he certainly didn't say anything offensive or disrespectful about other religions.
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